BANGOR, Maine — The last time J.C. Bakley spoke to his daughter Jordyn Bakley was on Jan. 29, 2010. She called to tell him she had been accepted into the women’s studies program at the University of Maine and would graduate with a double major in education and women’s studies.
“She was so happy,” Bakley, of Camden, said Wednesday. “She felt good about the decisions she’d made in her life and I felt happy for her.”
Less than 24 hours later, Jordyn Bakley, 20, was found dead in a snowbank at 15 Middle St. in Orono, the victim of a hit-and-run driver.
Garrett Cheney, the 23-year-old South Berwick man convicted of manslaughter and drunken driving in connection with her death in the early morning hours of Jan. 30, 2010, was sentenced Wednesday at the Penobscot Judicial Center. Superior Court Justice William Anderson, who presided over Cheney’s eight-day jury trial in July, sentenced Cheney to 15 years in prison with all but seven years suspended and four years of probation.
Bakley spoke passionately for nearly 45 minutes about his daughter, how her loss has affected his family and how difficult it had been to sit through the trial this summer. He told the judge that he had been thinking about what to say to him for nearly two years.
He urged Anderson to impose the maximum prison sentence of 30 years.
“A statement has to be made [to the public] so that another father doesn’t have to stand before you,” Bakley said. “My question to you, Your Honor, is: What are the consequences for the callous, insensitive and irresponsible nature of this crime? Every parent not standing on this spot is counting on you.”
Robert Dana, vice president for student affairs and dean of students, told Anderson that when Jordyn Bakley’s death was announced, a pall settled over the campus. Because she had worked in the food court in the Memorial Union, the victim saw thousands of students, faculty and staff members every day.
“When Jordyn’s class of 2,200 students graduated [in May 2011], there still was a sense of emptiness, a sense of loss felt by many. Her absence was still profound,” Dana said.
Cheney, who maintained his innocence throughout the trial and after his conviction, did not address the court Wednesday. He also did not take the stand during his trial.
Cheney’s family members spoke of his deep religious faith, generosity and selflessness. They asked Anderson to show mercy.
“I offer my deepest sorrow for your loss,” Cheney’s older brother Travis Manning, 37, of South Berwick told the Bakley family just before addressing the judge.
“I’ve learned so much from Garrett and he continues to teach me,” an emotional Manning told the court. “I watch him teaching my kids the same lessons he’s taught me. I admire him for so many reasons. I’m proud of him and proud to be his brother.”
Cheney’s father, Harland R. Cheney Jr., 64, of Atkinson, N.H., also expressed his condolences to the Bakley family. He said that both families had lost a child.
“There are no winners here today,” he told Anderson. “One child has gone to heaven, the other is going to the netherworld.”
Cheney was in Orono on Jan. 29, 2010, visiting a cousin to celebrate the cousin’s 21st birthday, according to trial testimony
After hitting Bakley, Cheney left Orono and headed south on Interstate 95. His Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck went off the highway about 3:30 a.m. Jan. 30, 2010, in Etna, according to testimony. The damaged pickup was towed to the storage lot of a Newport towing firm.
Cheney, who was not injured, was charged with drunken driving. His blood alcohol level was 0.15 percent, nearly twice the legal limit, two hours after his truck left I-95, according to testimony.
Penobscot Count District Attorney R. Christopher Almy, who prosecuted the case, recommended that Cheney spend 18 years behind bars with all but 14 suspended. Almy urged the judge in fashioning a sentence to concentrate on Cheney’s actions after he struck and killed Bakley.
“The first thing Mr. Cheney did after he crashed into Jordyn was to extricate himself from the snowbank. He backed up and then sped away,” Almy said. “He got to that stop sign at the top of the hill [at the intersection of Middle and Summer streets] and had time to reflect. But he didn’t stop to think, ‘Maybe I should go back and maybe I should help that person.’”
Almy said that Cheney engaged in “a deliberate, systematic course of conduct that enabled him to escape responsibility” until the jury’s verdict was announced. He also said the defendant had shown no remorse during the trial or after.
“His conduct after this crime was committed does not speak well of who he really is,” the prosecutor told the judge. “Or, may I say, it speaks volumes.”
Defense attorney William Bly of Biddeford urged that his client be sentenced to 12 years in prison with nine years suspended and probation.
“The argument that Garrett sped away and knew that he struck Jordyn was not supported by the evidence presented at trial,” Bly said. “The law enforcement officers he dealt with [after his truck left the Interstate] did not say that they believed he seemed to be hiding something.”
In imposing the sentence, Anderson said that he did not believe Cheney could have hit Bakley and not have known it. The judge also said that the evidence presented — especially pieces of the grille found at the scene and matched to Cheney’s truck — was compelling and properly weighed by jurors.
“In this particular case, it is hard to ignore the impact this crime has had on the victim, the victim’s family and friends,” the judge said. “This loss can’t be exaggerated.”
Bly said Wednesday that the case would be appealed to the Maine Supreme Judicial Court. He asked that Cheney be allowed to remain free on bail until the appeal had been resolved. Anderson denied that motion.
In addition to manslaughter, Cheney was found guilty of aggravated criminal operating under the influence of intoxicants, leaving the scene of an accident that resulted in serious bodily injury, and criminal operating under the influence of intoxicants
Anderson imposed four concurrent sentences on the charges: 15 years in prison with all but seven suspended for manslaughter, a Class A crime; six months in jail, a $2,100 fine and a 10-year suspension of his driver’s license for operating under the influence of intoxicants when a death is involved, a Class B crime; five years for leaving the scene of an accident, a Class C crime; and a $500 fine for operating under the influence of intoxicants, a Class D crime.
He faced up to 30 years in prison on the manslaughter charge.
Until Wednesday, Cheney had been free on $50,000 secured bond since his arrest in April 2010.